Ex-Archives employee pleads to stealing recordings

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 4, 2011 2:05pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A former employee of the National Archives pleaded guilty on Tuesday to stealing valuable audio recordings and selling some on eBay, including a 1937 master copy of legendary baseball player Babe Ruth on a hunting trip for about $35.

Leslie Waffen, 66, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Maryland for embezzling almost 1,000 recordings worth at least $30,000 that were donated to the National Archives and Records Administration. He worked there for more than 40 years.

"These items were entrusted to the National Archives to be used by all citizens, not to be auctioned for personal profit to the highest bidder," Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, said in a statement.

The recording of Babe Ruth was recovered from the individual who bought it last year, according to prosecutors.

Investigators seized 6,153 individual sound recording items from Waffen's home last October and determined that he sold some of them between 2001 and 2010. Waffen agreed to forfeit at least 955 of the recordings and pay restitution for the loss.

Waffen faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, though prosecutors said they would recommend a sentence at the lower end of the sentencing guidelines. Depending on his criminal history, the guidelines call for up to 24 months in prison.

Sentencing will be March 5, 2012.

The head of the Archives said security has since been beefed up to ensure employees cannot walk off with such valuable items.

"New procedures include exit screenings, in which security officers check all bags of visitors and staff alike -- including mine -- at both our Washington, D.C., and College Park, Maryland, facilities," Archivist of the United States David Ferriero said in a statement.

"This routine practice will soon be extended to all 44 of our facilities nationwide," he said.

The case is USA v. Waffen, No. 11-cr-534, in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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